Diversity of India missing in advertising – says ASCI-UA report

Diversity of India missing in advertising - says ASCI-UA report
Diversity of India missing in advertising - says ASCI-UA report
In a country as diverse and multi-cultural as India, advertising that caters to this diverse population is surprising flat in its representation. There is low representation of various regional or ethnic groups, different body types, skin colours, and age-groups, and almost a negligible representation of the LGBTQI community, or of people with disabilities. Some of these representations are missing even in regional advertising. On a positive note, there is a positive trend in representation of women, although the quality of representation still has some catching up to do.
These findings are part of an updated report titled “Mainstreaming Diversity & Inclusiveness in Indian Advertising” by The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) and the UN Women Convened Unstereotype Alliance (UA). Developed in partnership with Kantar, a global leader in brand research, this comprehensive study delves into the realm of diversity and inclusion (D&I) within Indian advertising, shedding light on evolving trends, challenges, and opportunities.
The study scrutinised over 261 ads in 13 languages, and mapped them on 8 dimensions of Age, Gender, Sexual orientation, Race/ethnicity, Physical appearance, Social class, Disabilities, and Religion. It noted that Indian ads are doing well on the gender dimension, but are weak on other aspects.
Report Highlights
Analysis of Indian ads by Kantar’s Link™ Evaluation Framework indicates a steady increase in female representation, with 45% of commercials featuring women alone, surpassing the global average of 25%. Within the depiction of men and women, women characters are more stereotyped and shown as fair and lean versus men. Portrayal of women is also anchored to care-giving, and that of men to authority.
The report noted that less than 1% of the ads featured members of the LGBTQI community or people with disabilities.  About 4% of the ads featured older people above 65 years of age.
In contrast to many other markets, India is a distance away in terms of celebrating the inherent diversity in its ethnicity and skin colour. Only 3% of Indian ads had representation from ethnic groups vs. the global average of 19%, and only 4% showed diversity of skin tone vs. the global average of 27%.
The study uses the Progressive Unstereotype Metric (PUM) to measure consumer responses to representation in advertising. PUM measures consumers response as to whether the way people are presented in the ad represents a modern and progressive view of society. Global studies have shown that positive PUM results in higher brand affinity and intent to purchase.
Manisha Kapoor, CEO and Secretary-General, ASCI, said, “Progressive advertising works better for society and for brands. Ads that are stuck in stereotypical depictions are missing a trick in connecting with India’s diverse consumer base.  Collaborating with the Unstereotype Alliance and other partners, ASCI is committed to guiding and supporting the industry in achieving wider D&I representation.”
Susan Ferguson, Country Representative, UN Women India, said, “As conveners of the Unstereotype Alliance India National Chapter, we are dedicated to fostering inclusivity within the advertising landscape. Over the past two years, our alliance has brought together brands, organizations, and individuals committed to leveraging advertising and media to drive a cultural shift towards diversity and inclusion. We are proud of our collective efforts to dismantle stereotypes and champion a more inclusive advertising industry.”
Soumya Mohanty, MD & CCO- South Asia, Insights Division, Kantar, said, “We are proud to partner with ASCI and the Unstereotype Alliance in shedding light on the evolving landscape of diversity and inclusion in Indian advertising. Through our research and insights, we aim to drive a more inclusive and representative industry that resonates with diverse audiences.”